Empowering Women with Tea Bags

IMG_1349I’m a tea drinker. In bag form or loose, I enjoy a steaming cup of camomile, rooibos, white, or regular Lipton. I’ll reuse the leaves, and occasionally reuse a tea bag for another cup or pot. But then the bag or soaked tea leaves end up in the trash or compost. Little did I know they could serve another purpose – empowering women half way across the globe.

On our summer trip to South Africa, we had a day to explore Cape Town in all its beauty – Table Mountain (under the table-cloth), Simon’s Town, Haut Bay, and the beautiful M6 (Victoria Road) along the coast (which reminded us of Big Sur). Our guide knew we liked to see off the beaten path, local spots, so he brought us to Original T Bag Designs.

“A woman is like a tea bag, you only know how strong she is when you put her in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt

We heard the story of this amazing micro-business created by a woman soon after the end of apartheid over a cup of tea. Then we were escorted into the back rooms where we saw women, repurposing bags upon bags of used tea bags that had been sent to them from around the world. Removing the tea, the bags themselves were carefully cleaning, pressed, and painted – creating beautiful little squares of art. These squares were then combined in various patterns to create handbags, coasters, trays, frames, and more. Tapestries, pictures, animals were constructed using a variety of methods. Something so simple – a used tea bag – was used to create a business in which women could learn a trade, make money, and support their families.

Original T Bag Designs have a mission we could learn from:

  • empowers members of the Imizamo Yethu community to turn discarded tea bags from around the world into beautiful works of art
  • offer a range of unique, high quality handmade products including greeting cards, table wear, textiles, artwork and much more
  • is a socially responsible company that creates sustainable jobs
  • is on of Hout Bay’s most heart warming destinations

The tea bags really do come from all around the world. They showed us articles of a teen from the U.S. that continually sends them bags and bags of tea bags that he collects. All I kept wondering was: How much tea do I drink? How many tea bags are used on a Sunday morning at church coffee hours? What if restaurants in the U.S. dropped used (dried up) tea bags into boxes or bags for someone to pick up on a regular basis? What a great service project for any group! And you can learn how to do this on their website page: We need teabags

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So next time you have a cup of tea, think about these women half way across the globe that have been empowered to make a change in their lives for themselves and their children.

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